Former state senator and Democratic candidate for governor Tommy Moore does neither the state nor his party any favors by leaving public life to work for a payday lending organization.
Community Financial Services Association of America announced this week that Moore had been hired to be its executive vice president. Though Moore, who resigned from the Senate on Saturday, has not commented on what his new duties will be, it is assumed that he will serve as a lobbyist and public relations executive for the group.
Considering the populist theme of Moore's gubernatorial campaign last year, this decision is something of a shock. Many payday lending institutions take a predatory approach to the business, charging exorbitant fees and interest rates that often approach 400 percent.
While it is true that many South Carolinians lack access to institutions that offer small loans at reasonable rates, the contention that payday lenders are the only alternative is unreasonable. Both North Carolina and Georgia have virtually banned payday lenders outright without dire consequences for either state. South Carolina, however, has suffered the consequence of a significant rise in the number of new payday lenders, many of them opening in York County because of its proximity to the state line.
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South Carolina lawmakers recently considered measures to control the worst abuses of the industry by limiting interest rates and the number of loans borrowers could get in a year. But the bills went nowhere.
Now, presumably, Moore will be using his 27 years of experience in the Legislature and his ties with lawmakers to help ensure they continue to reject efforts to rein in payday lenders.
We are disappointed not only that Moore will be lending his considerable clout to the service of payday lenders but also because Moore has played a useful role in the Senate. He often has been an effective liaison with Republicans and a key player in moving significant legislation forward. He has been a pragmatic senator, able to work with members of both parties to put legislation on the governor's desk for his signature.
State Democrats also must be disappointed. Moore leaves an Aiken County Senate district that has been trending Republican for several years. Strom Thurmond Jr., oldest son of the late Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, already has hinted that he might seek the seat in the Nov. 6 special election.
Moore, during last year's campaign, said he was committed to protecting the needs of the average South Carolinian, among whom he counted himself. He will find it much harder to fulfill that commitment in his new position.
Moore betrays his commitment to the average South Carolinian by aiding payday lenders.
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